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Rumors are running rampent in regards to what Apple’s iSlate/iPad/iNeed it device is going to have feature wise. Talks of a front facing camera for video conferencing, raised type screen bumps that reach up to meet your fingers like some sort of star trek inspired tech geek’s dream. Man I hope it can blend specialty coffee’s too! Of course there will be the publishing content deals with magazines and books to effectively seek out and destroy Amazon’s Kindle marketshare. But I wasn’t sure this was enough to make it one of those must have devices for me.

I really don’t like reading a magazine or a book on a screen and honestly I’ve yet to see anyone with a Kindle despite Amazon’s claim that everyone owns one at this very moment. I Still prefer old school paper for that…and my laptop suits the rest of my needs fine but I think I know what will seal the deal for me in a tablet. If it included a pressure sensitive stylus. “Gasps” you say “Steve Jobs already said a stylus was lame and must be thrown to the sacrificial fire!” But hear me out. This iPad could be a perfect computer for a illustrator or designer if it had a pressure sensitive stylus!

This would effectively go after Wacom’s market with their digital LCD Cintiq. I would love to no longer have to hook up my Cintiq to my laptop and then reboot plus you’ll be amazed how many cables the Cintiq has and it’s power source brick. Not exaclty what you call pick up and draw device. But a tablet running OS-X with Painter and Magna Studios on it. Now that makes me drool. I could just suddenly start sketching anytime I felt like it…and I love the feature of “Undo” as opposed to an eraser. The Cintiq already costs $999 by it’s self. The supposed price point of the iTablet is around that and you get a whole computer included! Sign me up if that’s the case. Check out a demo here!

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bloatwareI recently posted about how much I like Flux versus Dreamweaver. With it’s emphasis on being intuitive and focused on what to do that a web designer needs. But one thing that I really liked about it too was getting rid of the clutter and un-needed features in an interface and how smaller the application was. Mac applications in general have amazing intuitive interface design. But there’s a couple of app titans out there that are still kicking and screaming into that idea. That’s Adobe and Microsoft. Adobe’s general interfaces really haven’t changed since their most early versions of software. What has changed though is they’ve added more and more bloated features and windows and fucntions to their software. The result a 1000 pound gorilla you’re taking to the horse race. What I’m happy to see is people are actually competing against these monsters of software. You have competition to things like Office with Open Office, iWorks, etc that are either free or substantially at a lower cost point. Acorn and Gimp are taking their shot at the Photoshop juggernaut and if they can get some of the compatibility issues resolved they’ll have something pretty solid. These new apps are a much smaller foot print in file size and often offer the same functionality minus a few of the features only a handful of people ever even think about using so I’ll take my software on a diet thank you very much. It’s also much better on my wallet.

with all this corn...he needs more brand.

With all that corn...he's gonna need some more brand in his diet.

 

You know as a web designer nothing is more disheartening then working on a website that has a truly horrible logo and accompanying outdated marketing materials. Usually it’s a bad hand drawn of artwork or something that looks like it was rushed out by a highschool kid with his first PC. It’s not just that it makes designing so much more difficult to work around that sore spot but you get so frustrated because you know that small business or organization is doing some great things and their visual identity quite frankly says the opposite. Often the client is like “well we’ve had that logo for 30 years, it’s what people know us for, but we want a website that really shows us as leaders” Do you see the disconnect? They want a great website that really reflects their amazing organization but they never looked at a root problem, their brand and more specifically the anchor that is their visual identity. They almost feel personally attached to it and it’s human nature to oppose change even for the better.

Listen, it’s time to let that 70’s disco inspired abstract symbol with the courier font to go to pasture. It’s not what your company is…it may have been what your company was when everyone in your office was in leisure suits smoking cigarettes and drove without seat belts but this isn’t who you are any more nor how you want to be portrayed. Your competition is utilizing social media, is taking fresh approaches in how they market themselves and you continue to trudge along in the trenches not realizing your getting passed by everyone else. It’s time to set yourself apart and take your branding to the next level.

Your brand needs to have a strong visual identity that not only can reach out to your existing customers and potential new customers but your own employees as well. It solidifies your direction and connects the points in the intangibles ways about  describing your business, it’s energy, it’s advantages. It helps create brand loyalty among your customers. Just remember you need a great business/product or the logo is just lying. the new brand has to be truthful and open just like your business has to be.

Since I’ve been doing logo design in tangent with developing an online presence, I’ve seen clients renewed and energized about their business again. They love being involved with the creative process of creating a logo and more importantly clearly laying out what their business is about and how it should be represented. My job as a designer is just to focus that and make it easily communicated visually. I’m not saying every business needs a logo redesign but I think a lot of companies could use a brand makeover. It might not be redesigning their logo but sometimes an evaluation of a business goals and direction can unmask some unforeseen problems in their visual identity that can be tweaked. Even if its font usage, colors or simple thematics around it which can better support their logo both in their print materials and the web. In the end a company or business that is excited about what they’re doing makes the world a little better in my opinion. I’m glad I can try to help in that.

 

treefalls2

So I read that rupport murdock of the always bias and highly entertaining Fox News and Washington post that he’ll be pulling content from Google so it can no longer be searcheable. His presumption that he’s offering some sort of unique valuable content people are actually willing to pay for? Sooo as usual big business forgets what it’s like to be a customer and they start running in fear from the inevitable monster that is the Internet. News that would have normally come out of the Wallstreet Journal are just regurgitated headlines found across the press release and blogsphere and more importantly the twittersphere. in effect the King has lost it’s clothes and doesn’t even know it. By effectively trying to put up a glass wall around their content and trying to get people to pay for a subscription to their content people will simply seek it out elsewhere for free. They’re not offering anything substantial different or valuable that a 1000 others are who many times are more informed and more intelligent bloggers and have already posted it on twitter up. Sorry Newspapers you will not survive the democraticization of information. The best you can hope for is a small loyal following to your little portal of commentary reporting online but you’ll be at the same level as the rest of us. The playing field has been leveled…may the best blogger win.

iphone_home

Interesting article about how Apple now is the most profitable handset maker but only has 2.5 percent of the total cell phone market surpassing Nokia now in profitability. Read the full article here.

What I love about Apple is they stay out of the race to the bottom rather than putting out large quantity mass produced cheap crap to try to dominate the market (you hear me Dell, and RIP Gateway), they decided to make a product that is amazing. With the iPod they had perfect timing to actually take over that market but I don’t believe that was their end goal it was just lucky timing. Worrying less about taking over the entire cell phone market much like their computer share they have an amazing product that earns them high profit margin because people will pay more for VALUE and a trusted BRAND. I stress that word VALUE!!! You get more for your buck with the entire Apple experience (hardware/software/online/retail/support/quality). Do it great, stop worrying about destroying your competition, worry more about doing something amazing that your customers will love. That’s how to be successful and yes I know I’m a total Apple fanboy, but I’m a fan of what is great not mediocre or mass market so I’ll take that as a compliment.

IKEA has changed the headline and body fonts it uses in catalog and advertising from it’s custom futura type to less aesthetically pleasing Verdana. This has caused what I’d coin as a “complete insane uproar” in the design community. Designers are practically at their blue and yellow doors with pitchforks and torches making petitions, burning photos of the Swedish chef from the muppets,etc.

beforeandafter_futura-vs-verdana

Really I admire IKEA’s useable design…I do find their product aesthetics a bit too sterile but it is insanely useable. People need to relax over this font change a bit. It’s not like PEPSI who totally redid their logo and branding for the worse and for no good reason that costed them millions of dollars across the board. IKEA did this as a business choice as Verdana works easier for international publication and web use. I think if Futura was a standard web font this might not have occurred and thus shows the importance of the web presence. They actually unified their font useage across web and print now and while Verdana is a sad choice consider it’s one of only a few choices they have in order to take that route. In the end this is not going to cause people to no longer shop at their stores nor does it really damage their brand perception to the degree designers are saying. In fact I’d venture to say that most people won’t even notice. Sure we designers consider this a slap in the face to typography useage but this isn’t the worse thing they could have done. The Pepsi rebranding was a waste of a money this was a money saving technique.

While I consider this a dent in the IKEA armor I don’t think it’s the devastating bad decision the rest of the design community is making it out to be. There aren’t vikings running in the streets, people are not tossing their meatballs out kitchen windows. I think sometimes designers can be oh just a bit too high and mighty for their own good. Now relax and go down to IKEA and buy your $50 plastic table you and get your alan wrench ready. I’ll be hanging out at the Pottery Barn instead.

beforeandafter_ikea

One of the struggles in web design and more importantly Information architecture is to get the client out of the mind set that the website is all about them and how they see their business. In reality outside the office walls, It’s actually for their customers and potential customers. A web presence is not stroke corporate egos or to be used as a weapon of internal departmental struggles for attention. That’s not helping your customers.

It’s vital now to have a website to be viewed as a tool or resource rather than simply a online business brochure. We’ve moved past the days of having 3 main tabs of “about us, our services, contact us”. Users are expecting more…they’re expecting for you to engage and interact with them on equal footing. You want to be heard above the competition? This means understanding who is coming to your site and how they would potentially use it. The website needs to provide these pathways wether through promoting online web services or tying into social media outlets for value added service or simply organizing your content in a way condusive to your users finding information rather than just for yourself. Creating real dialog between customers and business and taking the board of directors out of their ivory towers. It Lets your customers become your advocates and you’ll sales increase because of it.

Even from an information architecture stand point if you continue to use internal terminology that only your employees would understand then how are you reaching your target audience. Think about how your website is currently organized. Is it setup according to your own internal business practices, processes, and corporate hierarchy? Would this site even be understood to someone outside your office and is it really helping anyone?

Your content needs to be organized and most importantly thoughtfully written in such a way that a person coming to your site immediately knows who you are, and what you can do for them and where to go to find out how get their problems solved. The web has evolved past the point of pure selling and wants to reach out to your customers who are anxiously waiting to find answers. They’re much smarter than you give them credit for and will see through gimmicky marketing jargon, flashy sales pitches and will abandon an unorganized bureaucratic website (take a look at some of your state government sites for example.) Honesty, openness and trust are the new ways of doing business. Time to get on board. your customers are already leaving the station.

I saw this article and swear I’ve hear almost all of them from some potential clients at one time or another.

http://www.webmonkey.com/blog/10_Reasons_to_Politely_Decline_a_Web_Design_Gig

my favorites are “He wants to make sure you can build his site so it will show up first on Google.” and “He explains that you will be responsible to his organization’s “website committee.” design by committee..or as I like to call it the 3rd level of Hell.

jabba

Today, the Sci-Fi channel has formerly changed it’s name to ScyFy so that it can be “more reflective of a diverse amount of programming outside of science fiction”…which apparently includes Wrestling matches and Joan of Arcadia re-runs from CBS? Pizza Hut has also changed it’s name on some of their restaurants and boxes to “The Hut” never mind the potentially hilarious Star Wars references (see photo above.) Pizza Hut had a similar reasoning to showcase it’s wider selections of foods outside of pizza and try to capture a hipper larger audience. By hip they plan to include showing “Wheel of Fortune” of big screen TV’s in some of their new locations. I kid you not. You get the sense some marketing geniuses all sat in a room and were like “We got to change something we got to be cool like those Twitter people. Sports bars are big…hey how can we big like them? and how can we beat Subway?”

Here’s a better idea. Concentrate on what you do well and do it even better than before and worry less about grabbing at new trends or trying to kill your competition. Most of all don’t become medicore at a bunch of things thus diluting your brand with your customers.

When Apple was in the gutter in the mid 90’s and was literally trying everything including the clone market to grow their market share they lost sight of what they did really well. They lost sight of their culture and what made them stand apart from the other countless biege boxes. Steve Jobs came in and cut their product line to just a few key products and decided they were going to do these really well and get better and concentrate on amazing useable interfaces and making technology easier to use. On that strong foundation they grew into other markets (music, video) and applied those philosophies thoughtfully growing it from their core competencies. Companies that feel like they have to diverge radically from there core products or continue switching their focus run the risk of diluting their brand efforts, alienating their customers, confusing potential new customers. In the end it can result in mediocre products and continual business lost. What makes your business great? What separates it from the crowd? Stand on those building blocks and work from there and stop trying to straddle the middle of the road thinking you’re playing it safe.

“Man walk on road. Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk down middle, sooner or later, get squished.” – MrMiyagi, Karate Kid

UPDATED!!! Just found out Radio Shack is actually changing it’s name to “THE SHACK!” Well Shaq O’Neal it’s time for a new round of useless commercials.

lebowski
I think we can all get a little frustrated with clients but after reading this article you’ll see how they most likely fall into one of the several main characters from the movie The Big Lebowski. Read on to decide who your favorite or not-so favorite client is like.